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Thursday, July 22, 2010
When I was planning the menu at our wedding several years ago, I had considered serving a basil lemonade (spiked with vodka) as part of the cocktail hour, but I had reconsidered because I thought it might be too out there, too unusual for too many of my guests. I would not have had the time to coax friends and families into trying something different so we opted for the standard open bar with an assortment of bottled booze and mixed bevvies.
Since I am still on maternity leave and my son is now enjoying the splendid beauty of regular afternoon naps, I decided to make a pitcher of lemonade to accompany my afternoon of lounging on my back porch reading The Lovely Bones. (On another topic - Have you read it? It may be hot outside, but I feel nothing but chills when Susie talks about Mr. Harvey. It's gripping. Haven't seen the movie, but I think casting Stanley Tucci was a stroke of genius. He is Mr. Harvey.)
An abundance of basil and lavender in my garden this year made sense as a flavour accent to summer's perfect refreshment.
In fact, I may have said this before but lavender is one of my favourite summer time scents... It reminds me of Provence and of a wondrous lavender garden I stumbled upon outside of Kobe, Japan many years ago. Its scent is distinctive and unmistakable. Lavender's mild floral notes acts as a nice counterpoint to the fresh aroma of sun kissed basil and the juicy tartness of the lemon.
Of course, then there is basil. I can't get enough of it. In the summer when our basil is growing faster than we can eat it, we throw it on top of our salads (regular and caprese), sandwiches, pasta, eggs.... It's such a versatile and easy to grow herb. Even if you start it from seed.
To avoid doing time in the kitchen these days, I decided to make a "sun tea." I figure with the heat on the sun pressing itself upon us, I may as well harness its energy for some good...(aside from my ever blossoming container garden - updates to come in the upcoming weeks!)
Sun tea is a gentle way to infuse your summer fresh herbs into a highly delicious, drink-able form. Of course, it means taking the slow road because this brewing method requires alot of time - about six hours worth. But it's rather simple. Throw the lavender in a jar. Add some water. Set the jar out in the sun and set aside while the sun's warm rays gently brew your tea. Strain and add to the lemonade. (The detailed instructions are below)
Oh and if the cucumber garnish seems unusual to you. Please. Trust me. It's excellent.
Basil Lavender Lemonade
2 tbsp dried lavender flowers
half liter water
1 c white sugar
1 c water
1 c lemon juice
handful basil (approximately 1 cup of loose leaves)
1 seedless cucumber (approximately 4 inches worth)
sprigs of basil for garnish
Makes approximately 3 1/2 liters.
1. Fill a half liter jar (or larger) with approximately half liter of water and lavender. Set out in the warm sun for at least 6 hours. (If not making sun tea, use hot water and seep for twenty minutes.) Strain lavender flowers from liquid. Do not press additional liquid from flowers as you may release bitter flavour from the tea.
2. Meanwhile, make a simple syrup by adding equal parts sugar and water. Once the sugar crystals have dissolved, add basil. Stir. Allow syrup to cool to room temperature. Strain out basil leaves and add lavender liquid.
3. Slice lemon cross-wise and cucumbers into medium thick discs. Add lemon juice to a large pitcher, then add cooled simple syrup.
4. Stir well. Pour into glasses, adding a couple of lemon & cucumber slices. Garnish with a sprig of basil. Enjoy. (With or without a splash of vodka.)